Monday, December 07, 2009

First Commercial Spacecraft Another Step Closer

Tim Sayell sends in this article from Yahoo News concerning Branson's Virgin Galactic - SpaceshipTwo.

Since Branson won the $10 million Ansari X Prize, we have been getting tantalizing hints as to what Branson and aviation designer Burt Rutan plan for commercial spaceflight.

Virgin unveiled White Knight Two a little over a year ago but only mockups and the shell of SpaceshipTwo has been seen. Now the first public appearance of the commercial passenger spacecraft has been held.

Virgin says that testing of SpaceshipTwo will begin next year with flights to the crafts maximum altitude sometime in 2011.

The first passengers of course will be the families of Branson and Rutan.

For more information - read the complete article here

***update*** here is a series of photos from Boing Boing that are exclusive! Very cool!


Floppy said...

Is it really progress if it's only function is to take rich dorks for a joy ride. What about exploration and discovery? Surely that is where the big payoff in space waits.

Beam Me Up said...

It really is progress. Floppy, believe me I feel your frustration here. But even more frustrating is the clear indicator that governments are no longer committed to large scale space travel and exploration and even less inclined to have humans in the loop. With the trend already set, it has to be the private sector that picks up the slack in whatever contingent it feels is important. There is little doubt that a large fraction of the populace are fascinated with manned space travel - but with the government scale-backs, it is even more unlikely that the average person will travel into space under the auspices of any government. The only other entity capable of fulfilling the average person's dream of space-flight is the corporate entity under the control of extremely wealthy people themselves committed to making space-flight a commercial success. Who is going to reap the benefits of this privatization? Of course other extremely wealthy people. If you had the quarter mil it takes and wanted to go, you could, rest assured however you would also be considered a "rich dork". But eventually it will come down in price enough that the average person will be able to avail themselves much as they can experience many high end travel options. The thing to consider is that this has NEVER been any different. The wealthy have always subsidized our desire to experience the world of the wealthy. Not so very long ago, if you wanted a classical education you had to literally rule a country. Up until a few hundred years ago you had to be fabulously rich to afford a book. Clocks were so difficult to build and maintain that only the combined resources of a town or city could afford one. Knights on Horseback were ALWAYS ratified upper class because the technology and cost of manufacture was insanely expensive to produce and maintain. Before the mass produced auto, the conveyance was produced by master coach builders that would cost the average person the better part of a lifetime wage. The phone was first considered a passing fancy for the rich that would never become widespread due to the cost of developing the infrastructure so that every TOWN could be contacted. Having a phone in every household could not even be considered because of the massive technological advancements that would have to take place. Then some rich dork thought it would be nice to be able to talk to his stock broker, the rest is history. I can remember in my childhood gathering around the downtown electronics store window to experience the magic of television. Only the very affluent had one as the cost was often 6 months salary to the average person. Calculators, cameras, phones, computers, tvs, stereos all have in their genesis a manufacturer catering to the high end consumer to maximize profits. However the net result is that there is always a trickle down.